Preptober Is Coming to an End, People!

So if you are not aware of Nanowrimo, you won’t be aware of Preptober. If you don’t plan to write a novel, then this blog post won’t be of any use to you except as a curiosity. If, however, you are going to write something—especially a novel—some day, then this is a good thing to read. If you are gearing up for Nanowrimo in any year, then this is definitely something for you.

My project for Nanowrimo 2022.

I have explained a dozen times on this blog what Nanowrimo is, including in my last blog post, but here it is again: Nanowrimo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is a 30-day event taking place every year in November during which tens or even hundreds of thousands of people attempt to write a rough draft of a novel. Preptober is jargon for the month of October leading up to Nanowrimo, during which writers prepare for writing in November. There are many things one can do in October, the point being that in November a writer will be in no place to do anything except put words on the page. Preptober and Preptober festivities (as it were) are like insurance against getting stuck somewhere in the November manuscript and therefore failing to “win” Nanowrimo.

I am a little late on the Preptober upswing, and I am right here vowing to hit Preptober on October 1st next year the same way I hit Nanowrimo on November 1st. The truth is that up until this year I have been a casual Nanowrimo-er. I have used the tool(s), but I have not gone whole hog. I am trying to go whole hog, but like I said, I’m a little late to Preptober. Even so, with five days left until Nanowrimo, I want to give you a shot at a last-ditch attempt to prep. In the coming years, this will be a great blog post to use earlier. For now, I say use these four days (especially if you don’t have much in the way of weekend plans) to prep away! (And by prep, I don’t mean just plan the structure of your novel. No! There are many more and many more fun things to do to get yourself in a writerly place.)

THINGS TO DO TO GET READY FOR NANO

  1. Come up with an idea (or have one already). If you are a purist, you will approach Nanowrimo Day #1 with a blank file (more on that later) and a novel idea. Then you will write at least 50,000 words in that file and will be either done or well on your way to finishing the first draft of a new novel at the end of Nano. Other people are what is called “rebels,” and they piece together projects and goals (like short stories) to get to 50,000 words or—less rebellious—continue a novel that was already begun or write nonfiction. At any rate, at the very least, you need to have an inkling of what you are going to begin writing on November 1, something that will sustain for the whole month. This year, I am being a purist, and starting on a brandnew novel (the first of a trilogy) which was inspired by a dream I had a few months ago. I definitely have an idea, but my main character does not even have a name, yet. He will by Tuesday.
  2. Clear your calendar as much as possible and adjust expectations. Especially if this is your first Nanowrimo, you want to rethink your daily schedule with an understanding of the time it will take to put 1,667 words on the page per day. This might mean changing your usual way of doing things/your daily schedule and it will almost certainly mean committing to the bare minimum in November. Do things ahead in October and then put things off during November. For most of us, this still means we’ll be fighting against the expectations and commitments of our lives (like work, parenting, etc.) but it also helps to throw out unnecessary appointments or schedule them for October or December. Also, try to lower your standards (and for a person like me, it is healthy to do this, anyway) and accomplish things like a full-house clean before November. If you have things that have to happen in November, you will want to adjust your daily goals around them. For me, I lose about five full days in November to Thanksgiving and my daughter’s birthday, so I have set my goals for those days at 0 words and for the remaining 25 days at 2,000 words. (See where you might want to record those personalized goals below.)
  3. Sign up for Nano and add a project. Nano essentially happens online, though it also happens in person, on Discord and Zoom, and more importantly in your house. To do Nanowrimo in community (and the literal way), you will need to go to nanowrimo.org and sign up for a free account (if you haven’t signed up another year) and then “announce” your project for this Nanowrimo. The goals will be pre-set for you at 50,000 words from November 1-November 30, but you can enter your working title, information about your project, a working cover, etc. For that matter, you can update your personal info with a photo and biographical info. Most Nanowrimers that I know have an oblique username that they can proclaim loudly without embarrassment. Mine is just my name, which comes off a bit weird, sometimes. Think gamer tags having to do with writing and genre. It might stick with you for years.
  4. Join your local Nano chapter and sign up for workshops, kick-off events, write-ins, and sprints. Another two-stepper, you will want to search for a local Nano group and, if there is one, join it. You don’t actually have to do any of the things, but I have found all of it really helpful for 1) learning more about actually writing, 2) keeping accountable to all those words and 3) getting in the festive, Nano mood. I am attending (online and off) as many of these things as I can manage for the above three reasons.
  5. Make sure you have what you need like space and supplies. Hopefully, as a writer, you already have a place(s) where you write and the tools you need to do so. It needs go no further than your couch or desk and a laptop or even a pen and paper. It might be helpful, as well, to consider some additional places you might write when you need a change of scenery, like coffee shops (and their hours), a workshare, or a park. There also might be specific tools that you need to write this specific idea, including research materials, or tools you use for drafting like notecards and highlighters.
  6. Listen to a podcast (or three). Totally optional, of course, but I have spent the month of October bouncing back and forth between Halloween music and a couple of writing podcasts. There are even a couple podcasts that are specifically for Nanowrimo. See lists below for a list of podcast possibilities.
  7. Read a craft book. And no, I don’t mean a craft book (because, as mentioned earlier, we’re going to put a pin in our art and home projects for a minimum of 30 days), I mean a writing craft book. I think you should always be reading some sort of writing craft book (and/or magazine), but Preptober should be a month to really overdo this and also to pick a craft book (or, again, a few) that is specific to your Nanowrimo project. Highlight that sucker up. This year I am reading a novel structure book and also one on YA.
  8. Get Scrivener and download the Nano template. You don’t have to use Scrivener. You just want to use Scrivener as many, many (but not all) writers will tell you. However, there are two things that might scare you off from this writing-specific software (as opposed to word-processing software like Word or Googledocs). First, it costs $50 (though there is a rather generous 30-days-of-use trial period). Second, it takes some time to learn the program (though Google searches can educate you as you go, too). I got Scrivener over the summer, followed their tutorial, and then followed that up recently with a half-dozen Youtube tutorials by other writers. I also discovered that Scrivener now has a deal with Nano and have made available a template specifically for Nanowrimo. This is pretty cool in a really nerdy way. There were a few of these grassroots templates available in previous years and they do things like track your word count and help during Preptober, but this new joint-venture lets you update your word count directly from the Scrivener document. After it tracks your daily count and/or session count. What-what! Fun times.
  9. Fill out a workbook or sheets (or two or three) or otherwise plan/structure your novel. You can wing planning your novel’s structure. In fact, pantsers (meaning writers who eschew planning and fly be the seat of inspiration) insist on not planning. I would suggest some planning for a time like Nano, but you can skip this if you’re happier winging it. As for us planners, there are myriad resources for assisting us with planning. As far as I know, they break down into books or workshops from which you would make your own plans, worksheets (often printable from a pdf), and workbooks. My plan for my project is to fill out a structure workbook as well as a world-building workbook (since it’s a fantasy trilogy in the making) this year and then kinda wing a 7-step structure inspired by a workshop I just attended for the important side characters and the subplots. Then I’m going to line up scenes and color code. In four days.
  10. And now that you have Scrivener, you are going to want to update your Scrivener project and even edit the template to fit your needs. Before November 1. I added some folders and files (like Braindump, Soundtrack, and Timelines) and split my manuscript into a file for each day. I then set word count goals for each of those files, including my 0-word days (see above). If you don’t have a clue what you might want in a Scrivener Nanowrimo file, pop on over to ye olde internet and watch a couple videos or read a couple articles where more experienced people will tell you just how they manage Scrivener and Nano. Also, transfer any story notes you might have to Scrivener if you didn’t generate them there.
  11. Make a cover. Again, optional, as most of this is, but fun and inspiring. I have had expensive publishing software that I was trained on and have used that in the past to make mock covers, but I no longer have that ‘spensive stuff. So, as suggested on one of the podcasts, I started a Canva account and opted to keep it free. Then I made the most amazing cover for my project. It didn’t take super long but now I have something to post with my project on Nano and, more importantly, I have it posted on the wall above my desk because vibes are important.
  12. Speaking of vibes being important, make a playlist. You can go one of two ways, here. Personally, I use Spotify. Use whatever you use normally. Make a mix-tape if you have a way of doing that. Whatever. But then, some people make a playlist to listen to when writing and some people make a mood-inducing playlist or a playlist that would fit with, say, a movie of your story. I like to let the book (idea) generate the playlist which means I often end up with songs with lyrics which means I cannot under any circumstances listen to it while writing. If I need to drown out noise while writing I find it handy to have a second playlist, perhaps one I didn’t even make myself, which is instrumental and non-distracting. The book playlist I do use for setting vibes.
  13. And still speaking of vibes, it’s about time you line up some related novels and movies on your bookshelf/TBR. There is a fear that many writers have (and I have myself) that if you read something close to what you are writing you will rip it off, subconsciously. I am trying to get past that fear this year for Nanowrimo because—let’s be real—you have to read the genre if you are going to write the genre. For pity’s sake. I will do my best not to rip anyone off or become formulaic just as I will do my best to read widely so that I have an understanding that is not limited to only a few books, movies, or authors. Vow taken. See below for my lists of possibilities for this year.
  14. Get/make some sort of tracker. Ahem. Yes, Nanowrimo has a word count tracker which updates every time you post to it with new goals, etc. It’s kind of the point of the website, really. And yes, you want to update that sucker every single day. If, however, you are mildly insane or feeling giddy during Preptober, you could make yourself some tracker(s) that will be other places besides the internet. Like on a bookmark. Or in your dot journal. Or on a calendar on the wall.
  15. Create (or glom on to) a rewards system and stock it. I have never done this, until… I am actually doing a sort of pre-Nano Nano, in which I am completely finishing the novel I have been so close to finishing all month before Nano arrives. Which means I already have word goals, this week. Yesterday I was doing an especially exceptional job at procrastinating, so when my husband went out to run an evening errand I asked him to please bring me home a favorite snack and give it to me only when he saw my word count had exceeded my session goal (on Scrivener). Believe it or not, folks, it worked. I wrote 2,000 words in between the time my son handed me my laptop and getting-ready-for-bed time. I enjoyed the snack over an episode of something with my hubby. Some Nanowrimers set up a rewards system for the entirety of Nanowrimo. I have seen little cards with goals and stickers. I have heard of people buying some of their favorite things and withholding them until certain milestones are met. I have also heard of people, at least in theory, using an advent calendar since they now make them with goodies in them from makeup to wine samples or whatever. You could generate a compliment for yourself and illustrate it after each day. You could reward yourself with a special outing. You figure out the goals (which can be the daily word count or bigger ones) and what might actually work dangling over your head.
  16. Blog it out/Insta/Facebook/whatever. Or, as Nanowrimo would say (I think), “publish it.” Tell the world that you are doing Nanowrimo (and for that matter, set some boundaries early). You don’t have to do this, surely, but it does help bolster the community and therefore accountability and can help you think through and actually do your own practice. It doesn’t have to be amazing or thorough, but perhaps just post something ahead of time (like an Insta post) and then a few updates during the month, like of your sleep-deprived face, Blaire Witch style.
  17. Finally and lastly, begin Nanowrimo with a midnight sprint! The whole point of Preptober and whatever suggestions you decide to implement is Nanowrimo: words on a page. I am all too aware that Nanowrimo Eve is also Halloween. I am a big Halloween fan and I go all out. However, I also love the idea of gathering at midnight (for me, this year, on Zoom) to do a few writing sprints in my pajamas before flopping down onto the bed. I don’t usually write too late because it’s terrible for sleep, but what a fun tradition and what a way to blast into Nanowrimo ready and jazzed.

So, whether or not you have done anything so far in Preptober, there is still time to get just-ready enough. You need an idea. You need to sign up online. Everything else is just icing, though sometimes this icing is what will save you, mid-Nano.

Gallery above: Three other mock covers that I might have made when I was in Canva. A book that is done, a book that is drafted, and a project I pitched for a 2023 residency.

__________

List of podcasts, books, movies, and craft books I am considering for this go-around:

PODCASTS:

  • Write-Minded
  • How to Win Nanowrimo
  • Unpublished
  • The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt
  • Writer’s Routine
  • The Imaginary World
  • Atticus After Dark
  • and for me this year, Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby!.

WRITING BOOKS (specifically for novels and for story-generating and writing):

  • Plot & Structure, Bell
  • Save the Cat
  • Save the Cat Writes a Novel
  • Save the Cat Writes a YA Novel
  • Outlining Your Novel, Weiland
  • Outlining Your Novel Workbook, Weiland
  • The Only World-Building Workbook You’ll Ever Need, Holladay
  • The Only Fantasy Workbook You’ll Ever Need, Holladay
  • The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Maass
  • Story Structure, Bernhardt
  • Wonderbook, Vandermeer
  • How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, Ingermanson
  • List of best books on writing HERE (like On Writing, King; Zen in the Art of Writing, Bardbury; Bird by Bird, Lamott; and tons of other books on more specific things and more general things, from grammar to the editing process to unleashing your creativity to the writing life to making money to publishing to writing about death or villains or dealing with specifics (like the first five pages or character or sentence structure) or whatnot and in other genres (like YA, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, script-writing, etc.) Also, some writer memoirs.)
  • Story Genius, Lisa Cron
  • The Writer’s Journey, Vogler
  • Steering the Craft, Le Guinn
  • How to Write Bestselling Fiction, Koontz
  • Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg
  • Word Work, Rogers
  • Aspects of the Novel, Forster
  • Pity the Reader, Vonnegut
  • Wild Words, Gulotta
  • Murder Your Darlings, Clark
  • How to Grow a Novel, Stein
  • The Science of Storytelling, Storr
  • Daily Rituals, Currey
  • Story Engineering, Brooks
  • On Writing, Bukowski
  • Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, Pressfield
  • About Writing, Delany
  • If You Want to Write, Ueland
  • The Kick-Ass Writer, Wendig
  • The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, NY Writers’ Workshop
  • The Paris Review Interviews, I-IV
  • On Writing, Welty
  • The Modern Library’s Writers’ Workshop
  • The Lie That Tells the Truth, Dufresne
  • The Art of Fiction, Gardner

SIMILAR, VIBEY FICTION BOOKS (I was looking for a certain vibe that fell in the YA/fantasy/adventure with a touch of Sherlock Holmes and mythology vicinity. If you have any suggestions, let me know):

  • Twilight (3, except I already read it)
  • The Hunger Games (3, except I already read it)
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles (except I already read it)
  • The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle (4))
  • Mortal Instruments (6, and Infernal Devices, 3)
  • His Dark Materials (3)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower *
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  • A Separate Peace
  • The Old Kingdom
  • The Dark Is Rising
  • Hush, Hush
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Bartimeaus
  • Bloodlines
  • Fallen
  • If I Stay
  • The Blue Sword
  • Daughter of the Lioness
  • The Immortals
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (7)
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles
  • Chaos Walking
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • The House of the Scorpion
  • Chronicles of Chrestomanci
  • Gone
  • Shiver
  • A Monster Calls
  • Every Day
  • Boy Proof
  • Eleanor and Park *
  • Under the Never Sky (Una)
  • Shatter Me
  • The Immortal Rules
  • The Lightning Thief (5)
  • All the Bright Places
  • Angelfall
  • Obsidian
  • The Darkest Minds
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses *
  • The Atlas Six
  • The Beast Slayer and The Beast Warrior
  • A Winter’s Promise
  • Gideon the Ninth
  • The Deathless Girls
  • Lonely Castle in the Mirror
  • Strange the Dreamer
  • Shadow and Bone (3)
  • Six of Crows *
  • Half a King (3)
  • The Cat Who Saved Books
  • Children of Blood and Bone
  • Uprooted
  • The Night Circus *
  • Monstress
  • An Ember in the Ashes
  • The Wilder Girls
  • Red Queen
  • Song of Achilles and Circe *

MOVIES (Same vibe as stated above, because this is what I will be writing):

  • Blinded by the Light
  • Twilight
  • Hunger Games
  • Harry Potter
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Into the Spider-Verse
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Brick
  • Juno
  • The Craft
  • Donny Darko
  • Easy A
  • Spiderman: Homecoming
  • Love, Simon
  • Say Anything
  • Election
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Ladybird
  • Booksmart
  • The Lost Boys
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
  • Mean Girls
  • Ten Things I Hate About You
  • Back to the Future
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Clueless
  • The School of Good and Evil
  • Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Ender’s Game
  • Mortal Engines
  • Spirited Away
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Artemis Fowl
  • Super 8
  • Stanger Things
  • See You Yesterday
  • Bumblebee
  • Percy Jackson
  • The Darkest Minds
  • E.T.
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Goosebumps
  • The Neverending Story
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Enola Holmes and Enola Holmes 2
  • Sherlock

NOTE: I plan on doing many of these things in the future for each book that I tackle, including the second draft of the one I just finished and even a re-write of the one I’m currently shopping out for an agent. You could even use some of these tools (especially #9) for short stories.

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